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Web Desk
July 16, 2020

Asad Umar says COVID-19 positivity rate declining in Pakistan, defends testing policy


Web Desk
Thu, Jul 16, 2020

Responding to opposition parties’ criticism that the government has purposely reduced the coronavirus testing in the country to show that the virus cases are declining, Federal Minister Asad Umar defended the policy saying the increase in positive cases is slowing across Pakistan.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zaradri had blamed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf governments for deliberately cutting down the number of tests and putting the health system and people of Pakistan at risk.

The federal minister had taken to Twitter to deny general criticism of the government’s position that the curve has been flattening recently due to smart lockdown measures and implementation of SOPs.

Sharing statistics, the minister said that, on a daily basis, the country is now seeing nearly half the number of new cases as compared to the middle of June.

Umar explained that the 24,262 tests conducted countrywide yesterday would have yielded 5,500 positive cases if the 'positivity rate' was the same as it was in mid-June.

The 'positivity rate' is a simple percentage measure of how many people test positive for the virus out of the total number of people tested in a day. For example, if 10 tests are administered and two people test positive, the 'positivity rate' would be 20%.

Fortunately, Umar said, only 2,145 had tested positive yesterday from the 24,262 tests done for the day. He therefore concluded that the decline in cases is due to the 60% reduction in the positivity rate compared to the mid of June.

“If positivity ratio was same as in mid june... 22+%, the 24,262 tests done yesterday would have resulted in 5,500 cases... Actual yesterday was 2,145.! Decline is primarily due to a nearly 60% reduction in positivity.”

Presenting a breakdown, the minister said that from June 1-15, an average of 23,403 tests were done on a daily basis. Out of these, approximately 5,056 would be reported positive each day on average.

He said that, in comparison, from July 1 to 15, approximately 22,969 tests were administered daily, of which around 3,097 on average were testing positive each day.

Umar therefore argued that the number of tests has not been decreased but due to preventive measures, the spread of the disease has been stemmed.

"The decline in number of patients is the result of preventive measures by people and administrative measures (by the government)," he insisted.

Decline in testing

Pakistan made the most utilisation of its testing capacity on June 19, with over 31,000 tests administered that day. Since then, a general decline has been observed in the number of tests administered across the country on a daily basis.

The Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination, which provides daily statistics on the outbreak, noted that on July 7, Pakistan had carried out 21,951 tests across the country, which is only 30% of its total testing capacity.

As per the National Command Operation Center (NCOC), Pakistan has a testing capacity of 71,780 tests per day through 133 laboratories.

At the start of July, Umar had said that Pakistan's total cases can remain under 400,000 if SOPs are followed. The country as of today stands at 257,914 cases and more than 5,400 deaths.

The federal minister, in a statement, had said that the COVID-19 death rate is also declining in the country.